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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Then Came You is an indie dramedy about a 19-year-old hypochondriac (Asa Butterfield) who befriends a terminally ill 17-year-old (Maisie Williams) and joins her as she completes her bucket list. The movie is likely to appeal to teens, particularly those drawn to stories featuring a Manic Pixie Dream Girl character arc. Unlike other movies about illness and dying, this one focuses on a touching platonic friendship rather than a central romance. You can still expect kissing and one sex scene involving virginity loss, but it's not graphic beyond showing a young woman in her underwear and a young man shirtless. There's also some strong language ("f--k," "s--t," etc.), underage drinking/drunkenness at a party, pot being offered to a minor, and a couple of upsetting scenes related to illness. In the end, the story promotes compassion, empathy, and not taking life for granted.
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What's the story?
THEN CAME YOU stars Asa Butterfield as Calvin, a 19-year-old hypochondriac who works with his father and older brother as a baggage handler at an Upstate New York airport. Calvin, who dropped out of college, meets Skye (Maisie Williams), a terminally ill high school senior, at a cancer support group he had no reason to attend. Ebullient Skye takes a liking to the socially awkward, introverted Calvin and convinces him to join her in completing her bucket list. In exchange, Skye offers close friendship and tips on how to bring Calvin out of his shell and not take life for granted. One of the ways she helps Calvin is by encouraging him to finally get to know his work crush, flight attendant Izzy (Nina Dobrev).
Is it any good?
Talented young performers rescue this "dying teen" story from being a purely predictable, tear-jerking coming-of-age drama. Williams' Skye is a classic Manic Pixie Dream Girl, with her exuberant chutzpah, colorful hair, and doe-eyed persuasiveness. But she seems to exist solely to motivate withdrawn, reclusive Calvin to get outside his head and not let life pass him by -- because some people, like Skye, don't have a lot of life left to enjoy. Several times, the movie makes it seem that, despite Calvin's crush on the older and seemingly unattainable Izzy, he'll eventually fall for Skye, even though she has a devastating prognosis.
But audiences shouldn't be easily deceived: This is not The Fault in Our Stars or Now Is Good or Me and Earl and the Dying Girl or Me Before You. This is not a weepy romance; it's about how the story's central friendship impacts Calvin and helps him do more with his life. That can be frustrating, since Skye has less agency in the story than Calvin, and lot of her "to die list" goes by in a montage of sweet adventure. One of the best parts of the movie is actually Ken Jeong as a local police officer who, along with his partner, keeps bumping into Skye and Calvin and ends up helping them cross items off her list. While Then Came You isn't a standout entry in the "dying teen" genre, there's just enough heart to make it a serviceable (if sappy) pick.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the characters' friendships in Then Came You. What brings them together? What's the true measure of a real friendship? Can you think of other movies that portray powerful friend relationships?
How does the movie depict sex? How is it different here from how it's often portrayed in other teen movies/books? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
Skye has been described as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Do you know what that means? If so, do you agree with the assessment? Do you think she's a realistic portrayal of a teenager dying of cancer?
- In theaters: February 1, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: March 12, 2019
- Cast: Asa Butterfield, Maisie Williams, Nina Dobrev
- Director: Peter Hutchings
- Studio: Shout! Factory
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character strengths: Compassion, Curiosity
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: March 5, 2020
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